Obama vs Romney: Election 2012 Will Be Decided by Sound Bytes, Not Facts


Most people don’t trust the mainstream media, and perhaps justifiably so. A Washington Post fact-checker recently called a WaPo columnist a liar. When editor Fred Hiatt hired this possibly perfidious ex-Bush speechwriter, he explained that “it’s good to have other points of view represented,” and that the columnist “makes some strong arguments.”

In the era of post-truth politics, strong arguments tend to matter more than facts. Every politician and TV talking head has a voice, and everyone is vocalizing at the same time. This creates more cacophony than harmony and trains voters to listen selectively to the song they like. The most popular song wins.

We’re taught to listen to the victorious songs of the past two hundred years. Freedom from tyranny has a better ring than colonial obedience. Ruling from one coast to another is a much sweeter song than sharing land with another poorly administered empire. All men being equal and free is necessarily good — even though the argument for the Civil War at the time was preserving the Union and not abiding splitters to form their own country. Government acting to put people back to work and restart the economy is a resurgent theme. Taking this interpretation too far results in Whig history that glosses over all conflict, but the present-day political consequences of such a mindset are probably more important than the historiographical consequences.